Township Economic Development in Gauteng Province

This project and the partnership between South African Cities Network (SACN), the South African Research Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability (CLES) at North-West University and the WITS Law School successfully accomplished the research initiative of SACN and the Gauteng Office of the Premier. This series of research reports is intended to address key institutional barriers to the growth and development of township economies, particularly in relation to enablement through regulation in terms of national, provincial, and municipal law.


The informal economy, and township economies in particular, are complex. They come from South Africa’s history of socially engineered urban growth and marginalisation, and macro- and micro-level systems of power and decision making. They are also affected by multiple international, African regional, national and local economic forces – ranging from high levels of unemployment and urban poverty, to the hollowing out of smaller towns, to xenophobic sentiments such as “South Africans are spectators in their own economy”.


This paper is part one of a three-part action research initiative by the South African Cities Network (SACN) and the Gauteng Provincial Government. It addresses key institutional barriers to the growth and development of township economies, especially those to do with enablement through regulation. Aligned with the three parts of the initiative are the initiative objectives:

• to identify the steps towards enablement that the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) can take in order to revitalise township economic development. These require an overview of the  authority (power) and instrumentation regarding township economies that local and provincial government can use. The Gauteng provincial government and its municipalities may be able to co-develop a framework standard draft bylaw on township economic development;
• to investigate a disciplining approach to ensure that township enterprises don’t have to bear the brunt of disorganised institutions, which is what is happening currently. We must determine whether a Gauteng Provincial Act that is developmental rather than just punitive can be developed to set rules for the province; and
• to explore the options for rallying and mobilising other actors, nationally and more generally, to inform and support enabling township economies. A national advocacy agenda under the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) has been proposed; its engagements, programmes and actions must still be determined.